Virginia is moving forward with climate change regulations that could mean the expansion of a 10-state cap-and-trade system extending from Massachusetts to Maryland.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will begin presenting its draft greenhouse gas program next week to the state's pollution board for approval to create the state's first cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Most climate scientists blame greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels for raising the temperature of the Earth, resulting in potentially catastrophic flooding, drought, and more severe weather overall.
The Democratic Party's victory on Tuesday in the governor's race appears to have cemented the move toward climate regulations, with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam beating Republican challenger Ed Gillespie.
Incumbent Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, had initiated a process to create a greenhouse gas system after President Trump decided to scrap the Obama administration's climate change regulations this year.
Now it appears that process will continue under Northam, with Virginia likely joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to become the 11th member of the multi-state cap-and-trade system.
Virginia regulators said the plan will be presented to the state's Air Pollution Control Board on Nov. 16.
The greenhouse gas initiative, or RGGI, put out a statement Thursday welcoming "Virginia’s progress towards establishing a market-based program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation."
The state's move is seen as the first step toward joining the pact. An RGGI official confirmed that the initiative has been in talks with the state.
"The RGGI states have held productive and collaborative conversations with Virginia representatives as they crafted their regulation and look forward to continuing those conversations as Virginia’s program design process advances," a statement read.
RGGI is evaluating Virginia’s proposed regulation but said it appears to comport with many of the market specifications under the RGGI program.
Virginia's limit, or "cap," on carbon dioxide emissions would tighten 30 percent between 2020 and 2030, while adding measures to maintain market stability with a reserve of credits that power plant owners can purchase to help them comply. Under the RGGI program, the revenues from the credit purchases are used to fund energy efficiency, clean and renewable energy projects, as well as assist low-income residents in paying their electric bills.
"Virginia's proposal to conduct consignment auctions is indicative of their support of RGGI’s market-based approach to pricing emissions," according to RGGI. The auctions are used to determine the price of emission credits for regulated parties.